Practicing Medicine SDOH Physician Toolkit Recognizing SDOH

Recognizing SDOH

Body, mind & Spirit

Social determinants of health & your patients

The osteopathic profession's whole-person approach to care focuses on the body, mind and spirit of the patient.

Social determinants of health (SDOH) are defined as conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work and age that contribute to a wide range of health, functioning and quality-of-life outcomes and risks. Many of these determinants impact both the physical and mental health of patients and can lead to increased prevalence of chronic disease.


Examples of SDOH

The following list includes examples of SDOH that can have the greatest impact resulting in health inequities.

  • Access to health care

    Factors Include health coverage, provider availability, provider linguistic and cultural competency, and quality of care.

  • Ecomonic stability

    Factors that can impact a patient's economic stability Include employment, income, expenses and debt.

  • Physical environment

    Contributing factors include housing, transportation, safety, access to parks and playgrounds and ZIP code geography.

  • Education

    Education factors can Include a patient's literacy, language, access to early childhood education and higher education.

  • Food

    Factors that determine food insecurity include hunger, disrupted eating patterns and limited access to healthy options.

  • Community & social relationships

    Factors include social integration, social systems, community engagement, discrimination and stress.


SDOH & the osteopathic philosophy

Members of the osteopathic medical profession play an integral role in addressing SDOH with their patients. As trusted sources of health information and guidance, DOs partner with patients and their families to address both immediate and long-term needs, including the risks that impact their quality of life. It is essential for physicians to address problems as they are identified and work with the care team to leverage community-based resources as needed.

Osteopathic physicians:

  • Focus on understanding the patient as a complete individual, addressing the health of the body, mind and spirit.
  • Believe there is more to good health than the absence of pain or disease and provide a holistic and comprehensive approach to treating patients.
  • Support each patient in achieving a high level of wellness by focusing on physical and behavioral health and the individual’s environment.

SDOH during the COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 has significantly changed the lives of families in the U.S. and across the globe, resulting in social, economic and health challenges that have far-reaching implications for physical and mental wellbeing. Stressors include poverty and food insecurity, loss of employment, isolation, changes in childcare and school systems, risk of infection, complications following infection and loss of family members due to the pandemic. The negative impact of these factors will continue to have long-term effects on your patients and their families.

The immediate and long-term impacts of the pandemic have not been evenly distributed and stressors have greatly increased for individuals already struggling with low-wage work and those who live paycheck to paycheck. The pandemic also disproportionately impacted racial and ethnic minority groups considering the inequities in the rate of poverty, health care access and other socioeconomic factors. These stressors can contribute to a toxic environment and can lead to mental health problems, family violence and substance abuse, further detracting from quality of life.

The role osteopathic physicians play in partnering with families on immediate and long-term needs during these difficult times is crucial. As a trusted health care provider, you can make a difference more than ever in the lives of your patients and their families.

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